“I have always been really troubled by the amount of poverty in America. Americans are matched in their rich democracy with the depth and expanse of poverty. That’s really always unsettled me.” – Matthew Desmond
The ‘City of Lights’ guise of Las Vegas, Nevada, exists only to a 4 mile run known as the ‘Strip’. Walk a little east or west of this and find yourself within a world overshadowed by the billion-dollar entertainment industry, fuelled by tourists who travel from all over the world to get a piece of the action. When the thrill seekers, gamblers and party goers have reached the end of their hedonistic and excessive bout, they head back home, but for many, the city is home, a desert city, recovering ever so slowly from economic hardship.
The 1990’s deemed the city a mega resort, when thousands of people from across the country travelled to Las Vegas in order to work on the enormous construction jobs of the casinos and hotels that began to line South Las Vegas Boulevard. Within ten years, the population of the city doubled and quickly became the fastest growing city within the U.S., this golden era of Las Vegas came to an abrupt halt when the recession hit in 2008. The financial crash put a stop to any further construction jobs within the city putting many out of work. Homes within the city rapidly decreased in value and a lot of residents lost their houses due to foreclosure, resulting in a growth of homelessness. Without warning, Nevada became the state with the lowest unemployment rate to the highest within a short few years.
Though time has passed since the height of the economic demise within the city, it’s recovery has not made the progress that locals would have liked, meaning that large areas of Las Vegas lay under the poverty line. Whilst these areas remain stagnant, the strip has made a more considerable recovery with visitor rates climbing back to the 40 million a year mark. Recession or not, the amount of money that pours into the city through the tourist industry is substantial. However, the low tax rate within Las Vegas means that this enormous amount of money is not distributed back into the local economy, instead returning to the large corporations that own the hotels and casinos. This means that large areas of the city are neglected, run down and forgotten.
The external perception of Las Vegas, Nevada, is one of wealth, excess and hedonism. While this notion rings true within a significant part of the city, there also lies a hidden reality of Las Vegas, one not seen by tourists. A city that for a while exemplified this concept of the American dream, a place for opportunity, prospects and financial success, quickly became a representation of America’s stark contrast of wealth and poverty.
South Las Vegas Boulevard runs parallel, two miles east of a road named Maryland Parkway. This road inhabits many misplaced locals that call this road their home. The close proximity between the ‘Strip’ and Maryland Parkway represents the fact that wealth and poverty sit side by side within Las Vegas, yet the millions of tourists who visit each year would never see or experience this hidden reality that lays just a couple of miles from their glamorous hotels.
Jack Minto graduated from the University of the West of England, and took up photography after stumbling upon the work of American artists Bryan Schutmaat and Daniel Shea. He has long been fascinated with American culture.